Law360 (September 10, 2020, 9:57 PM EDT) -- A Philadelphia federal judge said Thursday that he would expedite a lawsuit brought by multiple states seeking to reverse changes that allegedly slowed down the U.S. Postal Service, shortly after 14 more states joined the fray with a similar petition for an injunction in Washington state.
U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh set a speedy schedule for the preliminary injunction sought by Pennsylvania, California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina and the District of Columbia against the federal government and U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, whom the states accused of removing mail-sorting equipment and curbing overtime to slow down service and suppress turnout in an election where the coronavirus pandemic is expected to drive unprecedented numbers of votes to be cast by mail.
"Plaintiffs' motion for expedited consideration, to which defendants consented, is GRANTED," Judge McHugh wrote Thursday. "As proposed, defendants shall file any opposition to plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction by September 11, 2020. Plaintiffs shall file any reply in support of their motion for a preliminary injunction by September 15, 2020."
Judge McHugh said he would schedule a hearing as soon as the court determines an available date.
Meanwhile, an additional 14 states, led by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, filed a separate lawsuit in the Eastern District of Washington in August and asked for a nationwide preliminary injunction Wednesday. The judge in that case also granted an expedited hearing, currently scheduled for Sept. 17.
"These changes also violate the Constitution, which guarantees to states the power to regulate elections and to individuals the right to vote," Ferguson's motion for an injunction said. "Without any compelling or even meaningful justification, DeJoy's changes interfere with state authority to administer elections and threaten broad disenfranchisement."
Yet another injunction petition had been filed earlier in the month by the states of New York, Hawaii and New Jersey, along with the cities of New York and San Francisco.
Outcry from the public and lawmakers led DeJoy to announce on August 18 that he was suspending any further operational changes until after the election, but the states' lawsuits said it was necessary to undo the damage that had already been done in order to avoid delaying the delivery of ballots, government documents or vital parcels such as medications.
"They have taken only minor steps to create the impression that they are responding to public concern while leaving in place the most serious changes that have contributed most significantly to the delays," the Pennsylvania petition said. "As a result, despite minor improvements, mail service continues to be worse than it was before July 2020."
A USPS representative told Law360 last week that service had improved as of mid-August, even under the current scheduling restrictions.
Representatives from the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
The 23 states and the District of Columbia are represented by their respective attorneys general. The City of New York is represented by Corporate Counsel James Johnson and the City and County of San Francisco is represented by City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
DeJoy, the Postal Service and other government defendants are represented by Department of Justice attorneys Alexis Echols and Joseph Borson in the Washington State case and Kuntal Cholera and Joseph Evan Borson in the Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. cases.
The cases are State of Washington et al. v. Donald Trump et al., case number 1:20-cv-03127 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al. v. Louis DeJoy et al., case number 2:20-cv-04096, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; and State of New York et al. v. Donald J. Trump et al., case number 1:20-cv-02340, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
--Additional reporting by Matt Fair. Editing by Steven Edelstone.
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